Controlling the Solution

The Principal of Change George Couros - 20 May, 2018 - 23:46

In “Learner-Centred Innovation,” Katie Martin shares the following:

Just think how you might begin to make the changes and the impact you desire in school if instead of statements like, “If they would have, . . .” you started asking, “How might I…?” This is what is referred to by psychologists as the locus of control or the extent to which people believe they have power to influence events in their lives. A person with an internal locus of control believes that he or she can influence events and outcomes. These individuals might notice that students are not meeting the desired outcomes and decide to take some risks, try new strategies, or design an authentic project to meet the needs of learners. Someone with an external locus of control instead blames outside forces for everything.

I thought about this quote in a recent conversation I had with a few administrators. There were focused on some of the ideas being shared were things that would happen in larger organizations, not necessarily ones in divisions with smaller student populations.

If you want to find a problem, you can see a problem.  Solutions are findable as well.

Working with two school districts in the same day, one had shared that although there were “1 to 1” with devices for students, the teachers felt they needed more professional learning. The other had shared that they were ready to go, but that they didn’t have the devices.  Two opposite situations, both seen as issues.

Flip it around.

One organization could have seen that although they had devices for every student and more professional learning would be needed; this is an excellent opportunity to model learning alongside students and reshaping what the classroom could look like.  The other organization could have seen the opportunity to focus more on the learning of the staff before they provided devices so that they would feel ready to offer solutions to students from a place of experience in their learning.

Barriers and opportunities are around where you look at them, but the biggest barrier is often our own thinking. As Katie reminds us, we control a lot more than we give ourselves credit. We can be the problem but hopefully, the solution.

Categories: Planet

Trevor MacKenzie: 5 Ideas to Bring the Inquiry Mindset into Your Classroom Today

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 18 May, 2018 - 21:30

Trevor MacKenzie on episode 315 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Fantastic ideas to bring the inquiry mindset into the classroom including curiosity jars, provocations and more. Trevor MacKenzie gives us ideas to help kids become excited and curious.

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript Trevor MacKenzie: 5 Ideas to Bring the Inquiry Mindset into Your Classroom Today

Link to show:
Date: May 18, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Trevor MacKenzie, 17-year educator from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and author of Inquiry Mindset. I actually found him on the hashtag, because #inquirymindset going crazy, Trevor.

Today we’re talking about five ideas to bring inquiry mindset into the classroom.

Trevor, what is your first idea?

Trevor: Thanks so much, Vicki, for having me. My first idea — and it sounds like such a simple one, but it’s often one that educators overlook — is to simply ask our students what their curiosities and interests and passions are. Then use these as leveraging points to create powerful learning opportunities.

Idea #1 Ask students what their curiosities and interests and passions are

So one really neat thing that I see in powerful inquiry classes at the younger years is called The Curiosity Jar.

The Curiosity Jar is a beautiful mason jar that teachers have decorated with their students, and teachers encourage kids to plunk a little written curiosity into the jar any time throughout the day. The inquiry teacher can beforehand — we never do this randomly in front of our students, right? — beforehand, pull out these curiosities and prep really awesome learning moments.

I’ve seen some amazing things come from The Curiosity Jar — wonders about space, wonders about humanity, wonders about learning. So really, when we ask our students what their curiosities are, we really do leverage those into powerful learning opportunities.

Vicki: Wow. The teacher looks at all of what they are, and knows what they are, and then the kids — at some point in the next day or so — will draw. And then the teacher will just use that particular lesson based on whichever one they draw, right?

Trevor: Absolutely. Sometimes it happens at carpet time. You know, we pull the kids into carpet time and we pull out these curiosities. It appears random, but the teacher has prepped and scaffolded for these carpet time moments to create really powerful, meaningful learning opportunities.

Vicki: And I love it because in some ways, even though you’ve planned ahead, it’s spontaneous for the teacher. There’s that element of surprise and spontaneity that’s so much part of the exciting inquiry-based classroom.

OK, what’s our second one?


Trevor: Our second one is to bring in provocations. Provocations in the inquiry-based classroom are those artifacts or images or videos, to spark further curiosity and meaningful questions and conversation around learning.

Idea #2 Bring in provocations

A really fantastic provocation that my son, who’s in inquiry this year, brought in Remembrance Day. Remembrance Day in Canada is the equivalent of, I suppose Veterans Day in the United States. Is that right, Vicki?

Vicki: It is. I believe so.

Trevor: Yeah, so he brought in his great-grandfather’s boots from World War II.

He brought them in, and rather than have him share them at Show and Tell, the teacher just put them down on a desk and had students go and explore them, pick them up, and ask questions about them. “What do you notice about these boots? What do you wonder about these boots? And what do you know about these boots?”

Between the students and the conversations about those three questions, further questions and curiosities and interests surfaced throughout this activity. So that one little provocation of the boots led into some really amazing conversations around Remembrance Day and specifically, World War II.

I think provocations are a really powerful way to spark further curiosities and questions in the inquiry classroom.

Vicki: I love that! So you’re really trying to provoke curiosity, aren’t you?


Trevor: Absolutely! And you know, to be honest, by having them be a part of those provocations — they can bring them in, we can bring them in — and then from there, we can connect to other plans that we have in our curriculum and with regards to our assessment, right?

Vicki: Oh, what a remarkable idea.

Idea #3 Bring in a real world problem or challenge

OK, what’s number three?

Trevor: Number three is to bring in a real world problem or challenge. I ask my students to help me attack this challenge and solve this challenge and try to make a difference in the world around us, whether it’s our school community or our local community or perhaps our global community.

Sometimes that turns into a letter campaign or an email campaign. Sometimes that turns into design thinking and creating a solution to this challenge. Perhaps it’s using technology to solve a problem that we see in our world.

Overall, really what it does is it generates high interest in our community and our global community. It creates some authentic skills with our students. They look at how to attack a problem, plan a solution, and then of course follow through on that plan.

Then it’s just really meaningful learning, isn’t it? When we are looking at our community, whether it’s our school, our community, our city, our country, and then globally, it’s so much more meaningful than just reading out of a textbook or signing out a book.

It’s an authentic connection to the world around us. And I love it.

Vicki: Trevor, you have got to give me at least one quick example? Go for it.


Trevor: So a really quick example. Graffiti art has really been a hot topic at our school this year because around us there have been some artists who have been, of course — taking liberties, tagging, creating their share of art around us.

So I posed that question to my students. What do we do about this graffiti art? Is it even a problem? Should graffiti art be legalized? What do we want to do about it?

My students decided that graffiti art, when done tactfully and artfully, shouldn’t be illegal. It should be promoted and celebrated in our community.

So we followed up that belief with a plan to try to make a positive change with this topic. Essentially, they wrote letters to our local municipality, encouraging them to consider legalizing graffiti art in some of our public spaces.

So much fun, right?

Vicki: Oh, that’s awesome, and they’re being a part of advocating for meaningful change in the world. That’s fantastic!

Idea #4: Model your own passions, interests, and curiosities

OK, what’s our fourth, Trevor?

Trevor: You know, number four is that I really do try to — as an inquiry teacher — model my own passions and my own interests and my own curiosities for my students.

Not only do I want them to see my thinking and hear my thinking — around what gets me ticking and what gets me excited about learning — but also I want them to see what lifelong learning really looks like.

I want to be a role model for what their future as a learner could look like. Really, by modeling that and sharing my thinking aloud, I’m helping them work out that metacognitive thinking behind what we see day in and day out for our students.

I think a real strong inquiry teacher models their passions, models their thinking, models that friction that we know students have in learning — and then how we deal with that friction and how we deal with the heavy lifting of learning.

So yeah. I encourage inquiry teachers to model their passions, model their interests, and model their thinking, Vicki.

Vicki: Oh yes. Bring it in to your classroom! Let them see you get excited. Let them see you learn. Let them see you talk out the challenges that you have as you learn it.

OK. These are fantastic!

What’s our fifth, Trevor?


Trevor: Our fifth is the power of the PLN. You referred to the hashtag earlier. I know this is bringing the inquiry mindset into the classroom, but number five is really about bringing the inquiry mindset to our school.

Idea #5: Use the power of the PLN

I’m going to encourage teachers who are listening to find a collaborative tribe within their building to partake in some professional inquiry around teaching and learning in our school. Inquiry just isn’t great for our students, it’s powerful for our staff as well.

So asking a big question of myself and a little group of teachers within my building — and that question, obviously revolves around how my teaching is impacting my students’ learning.

That can look like many things. It could look like provocations, as I referred to earlier. It could be a big question around my assessment practice or my preparation for my learning moments with my students.

But that — harnessing the power of the PLN in our building — is going to quick create the inquiry mindset with our staff, with our colleagues, and with our teachers. Once we have that happening with our staff? Amazing things are going to trickle down for our students.

Vicki: Trevor, while we have time, what’s the most incredible thing you’ve seen happen on the #inquirymindset on Twitter?

Trevor: Oh my gosh!

You know one thing that I’m real excited about — and it’s happening slowly because I think this one takes a little bit of time, but — I’m seeing teachers start to look at their learning spaces, their classrooms, and really start to re-jig and redesign how their classrooms look.

Quite literally, it’s playing with the furniture in the room. You know those Before and After photos that we see in design TV shows all the time?

We’re seeing teachers take this to the next level and really think about, “OK, what’s the teacher-centered room look like? What’s the student-centered room look like? How can I maybe find a balance between the two?”

Because we know teacher-centered time and teaching directly is important. We need that in our classroom. But then what does the student-centered classroom actually look like?

I’m seeing amazing BEFORE and AFTER photos of these classrooms where teachers have tried to strike that balance a little bit more explicitly and intently. Some of it is just so, so cool.

And it doesn’t take this huge budget. We’re not talking about spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on new furniture. It really is a matter of redesigning what we currently have in our room on a low, low budget.

And that to me is just so inspiring to see teachers re-jig what it is that they have in front of them to better meet the needs of their students. It’s super exciting!

Vicki: Trevor, give us a thirty-second pep talk for adding inquiry-based learning into our classroom.


Trevor: Wow. A thirty-second pep talk?

I tell you, some of the biggest changes I’ve made in my practice all stem from just trying to better meet the needs of my students. You know, I never set out to write two books on inquiry, or become kind of a global consultant on inquiry. The very first question I ask myself with regard to this journey I’ve been on has been, “How can I meet the needs of the students I’m serving?”

To me, that’s always been relationships first, right? It’s the high-five in the hallway. It’s the kind smile. It’s really being present to hear the needs from each of my students. Then, of course, really thinking on what a proper and powerful pathway is that I can create to better meet the needs of my kids. So relationships first!

It starts small and it ends up big.

Vicki: Educators, we know, we’ve got to relate before we educate.

These are some fantastic principles.

Hope to see you on the hashtag. I think I’m going to be adding it to HootSuite now after we finish up the show.

Thank you, Trevor! The book is The Inquiry Mindset. Follow #inquirymindset. So many fantastic ideas here.

We can do this! I really love the provocations and asking students about curiosity.

A previous show guest actually has kids keep a “Wonderings Journal,” where they write about things that they wonder, and these are all exciting ways to add the inquiry mindset into our classroom. Let’s do this!

Trevor: Love it! Thanks for having me, Vicki! So much fun!

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Trevor MacKenzie is an award winning English teacher, instructional coach (focusing on inquiry and technology), and graduate student from Victoria, BC, Canada who believes that it is a magical time to be an educator.

By increasing student agency over learning, weaving in strong pedagogy, transformative tech use, and sharing learning to a public audience, Trevor’s learners are ready to take on important roles in the 21st century.

Trevor is the author of Dive into Inquiry: Amplify Learning and Empower Student Voice as well as Inquiry Mindset: Nurturing the Dreams, Wonders and Curiosities of Our Youngest Learners (co-authored with Rebecca Bauthurst-Hunt).

Find out more about Trevor and his work at


Twitter: @trev_mackenzie

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Trevor MacKenzie: 5 Ideas to Bring the Inquiry Mindset into Your Classroom Today appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

We All Need a Champion

The Principal of Change George Couros - 18 May, 2018 - 10:42

My dear friend, Jimmy Casas, wrote a fantastic book titled, “Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes.“, meant for leading schools, not school leadership only. I haven’t read the book for awhile, but it reminded me of the leadership classic, “Good To Great,” because it acknowledges the excellent work already happening in schools, but helps to push them to become even better. I have written about Jimmy before and saw his work in practice. One of my favorite things from Jimmy’s work is that you could tell no difference in the position or role of any person in his school because he treated every single person amazingly well and understood their impact on the school community, both staff, and students.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Being a champion for all students means just that: all students. Not just ones who are likeable and want help but also the ones who might resist your efforts. Even then, your core values drive you to stay true to this belief. This unwavering hope and faith can be the model to inspire others to do the same for all students.”
Jimmy Casas, Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes.

Although I love this quote, I was reminded how important that the notion of having a “champion” is essential to staff, along with students, when I tweeted out the following Rita Pierson quote from one of my favorite Ted Talks ever:

Although I believe having one champion is not enough in our schools, I do think having at least one can change everything.  Looking back at my career, I know that I had a few administrators that both pushed and supported me to grow, while always making sure they knew they had my back. I was able to do so much more because of their support, and it is one of the reasons that I am so passionate about the influence of leadership in education.  Having one leader that believes in you and challenges you, from any position or role, can help you achieve things you couldn’t do without that support.  It is crucial to believe in yourself, but it is way easier when you know someone else believes in you as well.

While we focus on being “champions” for our kids, remember that “championing” the adults in education IS serving the students. The impact on one educator can influence thousands (if not more) of students over a lifetime.

Categories: Planet

Can I Plan For Next Year Yet?

My school has a couple of weeks left but it’s getting close. My Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles students have taken their AP exam. My own exam for them is next week. My underclassmen have a bit more to do and I still have some topics to teach them. Soon the underclassmen will be starting their semester summative projects. So other than grading my workload is lessening. Not gone but at least I have some time to think. Thank about what?

While things are still fresh in my mind I am starting to plan for next year. This was my first time teaching APCS Principles so I learned a lot about pacing and scheduling. I need to modify my plan for next year. I want to move the explore task into the first semester I think. The Create Task should be earlier in the second semester because it was much too stressful to have it due right at the “drop dead” deadline with the College Board. I’ve got some work to figure out how to make that happen. I’d like to incorporate some small device programming as well. I want to explore the possibility of teaching networking using Micro:bit which can communicate with each other. I need some time to work on that.

My mobile app development course went well using AppInventor but it was also the first year teaching that course with that tool. I’ve got to clean up the pacing for that as well as thinking about more or better projects for students.  If they release a version that supports iPhones I have to borrow my wife’s iPhone and test it out.

My Honors Programming course has gone very well and I am really pleased with pacing and projects. My collection of resources is a mess though so I need to organize that. I’ve already been filtering through duplicated PowerPoint presentations and trying to build the perfect ones. No doubt I will continue to modify each one after every time I use them but at least I will not have to search through to find the current ones. I want to organize all of my resources by topic unit. If I have time, I want to record short videos on most topics as well.

I wrote a reference guide to C# in the middle of the year and gave it to my students. Now I need to fix all the problems that they found and modify explanations based on what confused students this time around.

Our freshmen course is taught by two other teachers so the pacing and much of the rest is determined as a team. It’s in good shape but I still want to look at organizing the materials a little. And we teach Visual Basic there so I am created a reference book for that using as well. That draft needs review and corrections.

It’s going to be a busy summer. And that is not even including attending the CSTA Conference in July. (Hope to see some of you there.)

Categories: Planet

Ann Oro: Developing A Digital Citizenship Curriculum

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 17 May, 2018 - 21:30

Ann Oro on episode 314 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Ann Oro helped her diocese develop curriculum standards for digital citizenship by grade level. Ann also talks about the fifth-grade course piloted by Seton Hall in two of her schools.

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Enhanced Transcript Ann Oro: A Digital Citizenship Curriculum

Link to show:
Date: May 17, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with my friend, Ann Oro.

We were just talking about how we’re pretty sure we met just about ten years ago to the day that we are recording this, in Princeton way back in 2008. (laughs)

I really followed so much of what Ann has done. She was in the classroom for many, many years.

Now she is working as Director of K-12 Instructional Technology for the 93 schools in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, and really working with their digital citizenship initiative.

So today we’re going to talk about, “What should we be teaching kids about digital citizenship?”

So Ann, I know that you’ve worked with reworking your curriculum. You’ve partnered with Seton Hall. You’ve done a lot of these things. But where do we start talking about this broad topic?

Where do we start?

Ann: Vicki, where we start is with the teachers, and really being intentional at every grade level with what’s appropriate for the students.

I work with teachers from preschool all the way up to the twelfth grade, and it really just takes a spiraling approach — meaning that when you’re in the preschool class maybe that digital citizenship just looks like, “How do you appropriately share a device with somebody else?”

Then as you work up through the years, it begins to take on different meanings, everything from asking a grownup if it’s okay to go online and if a site’s appropriate to understanding how to research that information. And finally, how to truly put your best self out if you’re doing that on the internet.

Vicki: So Ann, you think we should be intentional. You know, a lot of times, it’s kind of the shotgun approach. I’m just going to pull out my digital citizenship and just hit a bunch of stuff at once and hope I cover what I need to, but there really are things that need to be age-appropriate, aren’t there?


Ann: There absolutely are.

When I worked with the teachers in the 93 schools, we realized that we didn’t have that intentional look at the skills that students and teachers needed.

So we began by looking at the ISTE standards, which is the International Society for Technology Education. We looked at state standards, and then we talked. We spent about two years going with this approach to find the skills that we needed across the curriculum, not just digital citizenship.

We started with the ISTE Standards and state standards

Vicki: Have you shared these somewhere online?


Ann: They are online, and when you look at the Shownotes, I have a link with the resources that I’ll be talking about, and our entire technology curriculum map for K-12 is online. It’s helped give everybody focus, and it really helps us be intentional, like you said, about what it is that we want our students to be thinking and doing when they’re online.

  • Check out for these resources

Vicki: Yeah. So, now, you recently made the news, when you partnered with Seton Hall Law of of fifth grade course. Tell us a little about that fifth grade course and what it was about.

Ann: Seton Hall Law School has a division that is the Privacy Protection Institute. It is a Catholic university.

In addition to working with public schools, they reached out to us to find out if we would be interested in piloting this program.

What it really does is it takes looking at digital citizenship away from, “Be afraid of who might meet you online,” to “How much time am I spending online?”

It’s not, “Be afraid of who might meet you online.”
It’s, “How much time am I spending online?”

It really started with a focus on fifth graders because the research that they did said that that’s approximately the age when many students get their first cell phone.

They wanted to make sure that students are thinking about the implication of, “How often are you touching that cell phone?”

Also, the implications of the way that you use your phone to search is going to give you different results from the way that somebody else uses the phone to search.

It really has been very well-received by the two schools that we worked on with it. They shared an article in The Washington Post, and the leader of the programs said that they have been truly just been overwhelmed with the requests for information about this pilot program. It just points to the fact of how very topical and important it is.

Fifth grade is when most kids get their first cell phone.

Vicki: Did you get any pushback with the age of the kids? Some people think, “Oh, the kids need to be older.” But you’re right — fifth grade is when it happens. But there are a lot of folks that live in denial. How did you approach that when you got the pushback?


Ann: You know, truthfully, and maybe surprisingly, we didn’t get any pushback.

There really is a clamoring for information on the parents’ part. I’m seeing it in different ways around different schools.

A couple of the schools did a screening of “Screenagers” for the parents and attended one of those. It’s a video of them talking about the research that a doctor did on cell phones, and, again, how sticky they are.

The parents, when you talk to them afterwards, are really just interested in how much is too much. And they feel like it’s just something that’s happening to them. They don’t realize that every other parent is dealing with that across the grade levels.

Vicki: What kind of results have you seen since implementing the curriculum and this program in fifth grade with your students? Has the behavior changed? Are they talking about change? What’s happened?

Ann: Well, this is, again, it’s very, very new. We’ve only been doing it for about eight weeks in two different schools.

So the results are not in yet, but we also — through the Washington Post article, The CBS Morning Show chose to interview the school. What they found when they were interviewing the students is that the kids really clamored for the information. And the students were really becoming more intentional about how often they were touching that phone.

Vicki: Because, you know, digital health and wellness is something that you and I have talked about for years.

These devices are designed to be addictive

These devices are designed to be addictive. They’re sticky, is what marketers call it. They want it to be sticky. They want the eyeballs.

But we have to learn how to put them down. Isn’t that so hard, Ann?


Ann: It’s absolutely hard. I’ve heard you talk about it before on other shows.

It’s that concept that we’re talking about young children with young brains, and whether it’s touching that phone or whether it’s not perhaps leaving the nicest message for somebody, that kids’ brains are really developing up until their mid-twenties, depending on whether you’re talking about male or female.

A lot of what they do is really spur-of-the-moment, so it’s really a need to help the students realize that adults have a hard time with this. They have a hard time as well.

Vicki: So, Ann, as we’re finishing up, if you could challenge those working with a digital citizenship curriculum around the world with students with a thought about what it means if they do NOT have digital citizenship in their curriculum, what would you say?

Ann: Well, I would say that you’re lacking not even a future skill — I mean, this his is a skill that everybody needs.

If you’re not teaching this, then you’re setting your students up for failure

If you’re not intentionally taking care of it, you’re really setting your students up for failure when they move on into college. If they don’t go to college, when they move on to work, because you need to manage your identity.

You need to ethically interact with other people. You need to understand the rights and responsibilities of posting things online, taking control of making sure that intellectual property is cared for. And again, finally, just being very cognizant of how you’re sharing your data.

If we begin in preschool and keep spiraling through that, through twelfth grade, we’re setting students up for success in a way that other students, in previous years, really fumbled through on their own.

Begin in preschool and keep spiraling through twelfth grade

Vicki: And we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, which is educating! We’re not just saying “Hey, just figure it out yourself.”

We don’t give them geometry formulas and say, “Here’s some formulas, figure it out.”

But we hand them the phone and we don’t do that, and phones don’t come with user manuals anymore. It just kind of blows my mind.


Ann: Absolutely. In the course of looking around online, if a teacher isn’t comfortable with this, there are so many resources out there.

One of the resources that I had shared recently with some of the local teachers is a Google program that’s in their training center in Google for Education. It’s a digital citizenship and safety course for adults. Adults say, “You know what? I’m new at this. I have no idea what to do.”

It really talks about why to teach digital citizenship and safety, how you can search online in a savvy way, how you can protect yourself from phishing and scams and how you can manage your online reputation.

If so if they’re not comfortable with this, that course really gives them just the nuggets that then they can turn over to students in an age-appropriate way.

Vicki: Well, teachers and educators, we have a lot to think about with creating our digital citizenship curriculum, with things that we should be considering.

And also the challenge that, you know what? Fifth grade, is really kind of a key age to start into pretty deeply understanding of what kids need to be sharing, even if they’re a little younger than that technical age of thirteen, they are they getting phones and that does put things out there.

So I just challenge you to go to your district, go to your school, ask, “What is our digital citizenship curriculum? What are the things that each grade level should know or understand?”

Truly, I’m not sure how a school who calls itself a 21st Century School if it doesn’t have an intentional digital citizenship curriculum. It’s just part of it.

So thanks, Ann!

Ann: Thank you so much, Vicki.

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Ann Oro is the Director of K12 Instructional Technology for the 93

schools in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark. Ann has been leading teachers and students in the instructional use of technology to support student learning for over 15 years. Ann works to assist teachers in integrating technology into the curriculum to engage students in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. The ability to critically review search results is an integral part of life in the 21st Century. It is equally important to communicate results in a creative manner. Ann shares collaborative projects with students and teachers across the globe. Her Monster Project, co-led with Anna Baralt, was highlighted at the 2013 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference closing keynote. She and her students were part of a project that won the Chase Multimedia in the Classroom Award with Lisa Parisi. She has been a K-8 computer and middle school math teacher and received her M.A. in Educational Leadership, Management, and Policy from Seton Hall University.



Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Ann Oro: Developing A Digital Citizenship Curriculum appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

FREE Healthy Lifestyle Program for Schools: fit4Schools

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 17 May, 2018 - 12:21

Daily Fitness Challenges, a Fun Sweepstakes, and a Way to Link to Parents for Healthy Lifestyle Choices

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

We need promote healthy lifestyles for our students. The program fit4Schools from Sanford Health, collaborating with WebMD is just that program. In this post, I’m going to tell you about the fit4Schools, a daily program you can use in your classroom to boost fitness, and an awesome contest that you can enter to win rainy day supplies for PE teachers or flexible seating for your classroom.

Sponsored by fit4Schools What is fit4Schools?

fit4Schools gives families simple things they can do each day to help make healthy lifestyle choices a habit. Parents can create an account and follow a classroom and their activities, which connects home and school in a powerful way to talk about fitness. Educators create accounts and can create a classroom.

I like how the site demonstrates that we have influencers in our life — MOOD and RECHARGE that influence the choices we make about the FOOD we eat and how we MOVE.

  • MOOD: feelings and attitudes
  • RECHARGE: sleep and relaxation
  • FOOD: what and how much you eat
  • MOVE: exercise, play, and physical activity

The daily fitBOOST gives teachers fun ways to add fitness breaks to their classroom each day. Other features include a weekly fit Calendar, and weekly lessons organized by grade level. The lessons include slide shows and are standards aligned. This is a great addition to your weekly activities in your classroom to help kids become more fit.

Enter the fit Commit Sweepstakes

The fit Commit Sweepstakes are an awesome contest you can share with students. Teacher must enter by May 25, 2018 and is open to all who are currently employed full- or part-time as an educator by an accredited public or private K-12 school in the United States.

All teachers have to do is enter and they will possibly win a Rainy Day Kit, a For the P.E. Teacher Kit, a Classroom Active Seating Kit or a Flexible Seating Kit! Teachers can select the prize kit of their choice if selected. There will be 16 winners. All prizes are valued at $650

fit Commit Prizes

The Rainy Day Kit Includes:

  • A giant tower game
  • A physical activity BINGO set
  • Clever Catch activity balls
  • A set of fitBoost cards
  • Plus loads of other indoor get-moving games and activities including hula hoops, a dance CD, beach balls and more

For the PE Teacher Kit includes:

  • 6 SST Scooters
  • 24 ACTION ToppleTubes
  • A huge parachute
  • A set of fitBoost cards
  • Plus all of the balls, Frisbees, jump ropes and more to make your P.E. class awesome.

The Classroom Active Seating Kit includes:

  • 3 ergoErgo chairs
  • 6 BALLance stability balls
  • A Yze standing desk
  • A set of fitBoost cards and Brain Breaks activities

The Flexible Seating Kit includes:

  • Tabletop standing desk
  • Mogo active seat
  • Active seat cushions
  • Deskcycle—you have to try one of these!
  • Stability ball chair
  • Stability ball set

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The post FREE Healthy Lifestyle Program for Schools: fit4Schools appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Carrie Pierce: Discovery and Inquiry-Based Learning in Math

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 16 May, 2018 - 21:30

Carrie Pierce on episode 313 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Eighth-grade teacher Carrie Pierce uses discovery and inquiry-based learning in her classroom (and no textbooks.) Dig into how she makes math marvelous!

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript Discovery and Inquiry-Based Learning in Math

Link to show:
Date: May 16, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Carrie Pierce, 20-year middle school math teacher, about discovery and inquiry-based learning in math.

Carrie is just up the road from me. She lives in Edison. She’s at Lee County, just one county over. Two counties over from me here in Mitchell County in Georgia.

So Carrie, let’s talk about how we can have discovery and inquiry-based learning in the math classroom. How do we do it?

Carrie: Well, it is a challenge.

One of the things that I try to do as I plan my lessons is to start at the end.

Start with the end in mind

I always have to think of what is it that I want the kids to know, what do I want them to learn, and how can I get them there using what they already know.

I think it’s really important to build on that prior knowledge whenever you can, but then tweak it just a little bit, to ask, “What if we did THIS instead? How would that number change this equation, or change the situation?” And try to get them asking the questions and get them excited about what they want to know.

Vicki: Carrie, this is more than just a math textbook, right?

Carrie: Absolutely. I don’t really use a math book. I have not touched one in probably fifteen years.

I teach from the standards, teach lessons that I have compiled and created and borrowed and adapted and tweaked throughout the years. And of course that changes with each group of kids. Everything runs differently the longer you do it.

Vicki: Okay, so “Discovery in the Math Classroom” Help us understand what you mean by that, because discovery and math don’t usually go together, right?


Carrie: Right, right.

When I was growing up and learning, we had our topic. I guess these days it would be the essential question (EQ) that you put on the board. The EQ was on the board.

The teacher says “Today, boys and girls, we are going to learn about functions,” and then launches into the lesson. “Here’s what it is, and here’s what it isn’t. Now work some problems.”

A common catchphrase that I hear teachers say often is “I do, we do, you do” and in my opinion, that’s not the best way. I like for the kids to wonder.

I like for the kids to wonder

I want them to get excited about math. I want them to see the real world connections that math has.

So instead of introducing the lesson with how things work, I might have a mini-lesson or perhaps a “Do Now” on the board to get them to ask the question, to get them to wonder. I might say, “Hey! What happens if… “ and then let them fill in that blank.

Vicki: So does this blow kids’ minds when they come into your classroom? Maybe they haven’t experienced this before?

Carrie: Absolutely.

I think it’s a period of adjustment. It usually takes them about three to four weeks to get used to each other and to get used to my teaching style.

One of the things that I do often is we’ll practice the problem for a little while, and I get them working.

We don’t start with notes. We don’t start with examples. That comes at kind of the middle of the lesson. Once they’ve tried it and kind of gotten their feet wet a little bit, then we’ll put our notes into our active notebook. Mainly that’s something for them to refer to if, you know, they have to take some practice home or to look back later in the year if they need that for a reference.

So definitely there’s an adjustment period.

There’s an adjustment period

Vicki: How do you start the class? You start with inquiry? Discovery? Very beginning of class?


Carrie: Well, usually the way I run my classroom, we do have our EQ on the board. They have their Do Now question, their bellringer, warm-up, whatever you want to call it.

And they come in, they kind of get settled. Now the Do Now could be a review of last night’s homework, but usually when I’m starting a new lesson, I’m trying to think of something that’s going to build on some prior knowledge. I try to think of what have we done yesterday, or in a previous lesson, that I can put up here and use, and often it just launches into my mini-lesson.

Vicki: Okay, so it launches into your mini-lesson, and then you’re always asking questions, trying to get them to inquire. Do you ever have your students come up and just ask you a question out of the blue, that leads to some math discussion?

Carrie: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I have a really hard time planning.

My administrators want me to have my lesson plans a week in advance.

And it’s not realistic because kids do wonder and they do ask, and often the lesson or the class takes a different direction. We still get our same standards done, and we still have great discussions.

Often the lesson takes a different direction

But maybe we wanted to do a different activity than what was planned or was already copied. It’s really amazing to hear how they think.

I think, as teachers – especially math teachers – one of our biggest (things) is that it’s not about formulas, it’s not about always doing it my way, but try to hear what they’re thinking.

And I’m always amazed at sometimes how children will approach a concept that I would have never considered because I’m trying to do it a certain way.

Try to hear what they’re thinking

And so as teachers I think we tend to teach in the way we’re taught, how we were trained to think about things, but to allow a child to discover a concept on their own and put it into their words is so powerful.

Vicki: Carrie, what’s a mistake you’ve made with inquiry-based learning that you would like the listeners not to make?


Carrie: It’s not easy. It’s not going to work every day, not going to work for every lesson. It takes practice. It takes experience. Sometimes you’re going to just fall flat on your face.

You have to be comfortable enough as a teacher, to be afraid to fail, so to speak, in front of the kids. Sometimes you think what you’ve planned is an amazing lesson for them to do, and it just bombs. They’re just not ready for it, they don’t make the connections that you hoped that they would make, for whatever reason.

And you have to be confident enough to say “Guys, I’m sorry, we’re going to try this again another day. You all weren’t ready for this,” or whatever. You have to be confident enough to fail, if that makes sense.

You have to be confident enough to fail

Vicki: What does it look like when inquiry-based learning and discovery in the math classroom goes right?

Carrie: It’s amazing. It’s fun.

They are teaching themselves. All I have to do is walk around and ask a few questions, and try to get them talking and communicating with each other and having those discussions.

What it looks like is the kids have taken ownership of their learning, and whether or not I was there, it would still happen.

Vicki: Do you ever have kids who used to hate math change your mind?


Carrie: I do. And I had a child who, yesterday, we were doing a complex — this was one of my algebra classes so it was a higher, higher level and it had a lot of plugging in and crunching numbers and (inaudible- FOILing?) and multiplying. We got to the end of the problem — it was just algorithms and one thing after another — and we got to the end, he said, “Huh. That is so satisfying.”

Vicki: (laughs)

Carrie: It was so funny. It was like he put the puzzle together. I thought, Oh my gosh. I love that. He sees that, and he’s got it.” It was just so cool to watch that.

Vicki: Carrie, if you could travel back in time and talk to Carrie Pierce on her first year of teaching, what would you tell her?


Carrie: I don’t know that we have time to address all that.

Vicki: (laughs)

Carrie: You learn and you grow, and every year is different.

Your life experiences change the way that you see children. I know that, as my daughter grew up and got to be the age of the child that is in my classroom, my perspectives changed and my focus changed. We constantly evolve and grow.

I think I would tell myself to give them a break. Sometimes they are just kids, and a lot of times, I think perhaps new teachers maybe expect too much. I know I did, coming straight out of college.

And you have your own classroom for the first time, and I was ready to go, and it was all about the content, content, let’s get it drilled in.

There’s so much more to kids than that. And there’s so much more to math than that.

Eighth grade, ninth grade, high school, they’re just beginning to see the “whys” of all this deeper-level content — see it apply to science, or analyze a graph in social studies.

I would tell myself to take it easy and to let them be kids and try to grow. Instead of me giving it to them, let them seek it themselves.

Vicki: Yep, you’ve got to relate before you educate, as I very often say, and it is about the relationship.

I’m so glad for people who were kind and patient with me when I was a beginning teacher. (laughs)

I know you are too, and so we always have to remember that.

But even when we’re beginning, we do have to remember that it does get better and when you start having those relationships, that’s really what keeps you teaching, in my opinion.

So, teachers, we’ve got lots of interesting things to think about with discovery and inquiry-based learning in math. We can really use that in every classroom, because we want students to inquire. We want them to discover. We want them to ask questions.

Thank you, Carrie!


Carrie: Absolutely. You’re welcome.

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Carrie is a veteran middle school teacher with over 20 years of experience, who incorporates discovery and inquiry based learning into her 8th grade math classes.

Twitter: @CarriePie

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Carrie Pierce: Discovery and Inquiry-Based Learning in Math appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

What do we mean when we talk about “access”?

The Principal of Change George Couros - 16 May, 2018 - 07:18

What do you think when you hear the word “access” when it comes to education and our students?

This was a question that I was recently asked at a panel at THE Ohio State University (I was told that I have to write THE before OSU and I am kind of scared not to now.).

At first, when you hear the term “access,” many people think about things like access to technology and the Internet.  Makes sense, and I agree. Kids who do not have access to the biggest library in the world will lose out on many opportunities that other kids do have.

But in my response, I wanted to challenge the term “access” to go beyond technology. What about access to high-quality learning opportunities in every classroom?

Put it this way. If you have access to the Internet in your school, but the quality of teaching and learning in your school is not excellent for all students, then how much does the technology matter?

I addressed the notion of equity in my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset,” and how it has to be not just equitable, but at the highest level:

Another concern often voiced in response to innovative initiatives is that the new program or approach might create superior learning opportunities—opportunities that aren’t offered in another learning environment. If what’s best for learners is our primary concern, equity of opportunities will be created at the highest of levels, not the lowest.

I am not saying that every teacher has to be the same. That is impossible. I am saying that access goes beyond technology and that every student should have access to high-quality learning opportunities.  When talking about students, the “access” conversation has to go far beyond technology.

Categories: Planet

Sown to Grow: Nurturing a Growth Mindset Through Reflection

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 16 May, 2018 - 06:58

How Student Goal Setting and Reflection Can Be Game-Changing in the Classroom

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Sown to Grow is a student-driven platform where students set goals and reflect on their learning. This tool is designed to help them own their learning and understand their progress while providing teachers with valuable feedback about how students feel about the process of learning. Sown to Grow nurtures a growth mindset.

As students reflect and track their own progress, they also receive feedback from teachers and insights from the software. As a result, students get better at learning, build a growth mindset, and achieve stronger academic outcomes.

Sponsored by Sown to Grow, which offers a two-week pilot. If you pilot before the end of the school year, they’ll extend your free trial through December 2018! How Do Teachers Use the Software?

Teachers can see student progress and provide feedback to students who are reflecting on their success. The advantage of this method is that we’re looking past the score to see the behavior that causes students to earn that particular score. Students also reveal the why’s behind their achievement (or lack of it) to help teachers understand their frustrations and challenges.

This means teachers can see how their class is feeling. This social-emotional feedback is important in encouraging students to learn and bring their best. It also helps teachers know when they need to help students with an underlying issue before moving on.

As I often say, you must relate before you educate, and this software helps build that important student-teacher relationship around learning.

Overview of Sown to Grow

Key Features of Sown to Grow
  • Builds self-tracking, reflection, and learning skills that help build a growth mindset, student agency, and academic success
  • Guides students with evidence-based learning strategies
  • Students take ownership of grades as they enter them and track their progress
  • Integrates with Google Classroom. Rosters and assignments sync directly with Sown to Grow
  • Positively impacts student mindset and academic outcomes
  • A fantastic tool to help with student-led parent-teacher conferences

What Does the Research Say About Sown to Grow?

Evidence of Positive Impact on Academic Outcomes. In a ’17-’18 study conducted by an independent researcher at UCLA, middle school students using Sown To Grow earned significantly higher academic GPAs compared to a control group.  The sixth-grade teacher implemented a routine of goal setting and reflection in which students spent only ten minutes per week tracking their grades in each class and reflecting on their progress.  

See the chart below for a quick summary of the differences in performance and check out Sown To Grow’s impact page for more info on how this practice is positively shifting mindsets and academic outcomes.

What Do Students Say?
Try Sown to Grow Today

Two Weeks Are All You Need! Sown to Grow has a great resource to help you try out this practice in your classroom before the end of the school year.  That way, you can see how it works and start thinking more deeply about how to integrate it into your routines for next year.

Using their two-week pilot guide, you can try Sown to Grow, empower students to reflect on their learning, and uncover immediate insights.  For those who pilot before the end of this school year, they’ll extend your free trial through December 2018!


Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored blog post.” The company that sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies that I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The post Sown to Grow: Nurturing a Growth Mindset Through Reflection appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Liz, Aly, & Walt: Ticked Off Teens Talk about Social Media and Smartphones

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 15 May, 2018 - 21:30

My students speak out on episode 312

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Today, three of my students take the mic. In a recent podcasting project, my students reflected on their opinions about social media. In this episode, three of my students share their views (with parent permission, of course.) What do you think? Leave a message for them in the comments, I’ll make sure they get them.

There’s no transcript for this episode.

The post Liz, Aly, & Walt: Ticked Off Teens Talk about Social Media and Smartphones appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

Kayla Delzer: 3 Ways to Promote Student Leadership in the Classroom

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 14 May, 2018 - 21:30

Kayla Delzer on episode 311 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Kayla Delzer motivates us to relinquish control and empower students with three powerful examples. From student-led social media to students calling parents with score reports and student-led conferencing, these three ideas can help empower students in your classroom.

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript Kayla Delzer: Student Leadership

Link to show:
Date: May 14, 2018

Vicki: Happy Motivational Monday!

Some of you are going to laugh at this. So we’ve got the Top Dog Teacher talking to the Cool Cat Teacher, so we have a Top Dog and a Cool Cat today for Motivational Monday. (laughs)

But we’re talking with Kayla Delzer about students as leaders, which is a theme, Kayla, that you have a lot. What do you mean by students as leaders?


Kayla: So, first of all, thank you so much, Vicki, for having me. I am so excited to be here today!

A big thing that I have in my classroom is, “Everyone’s a teacher. Everyone’s a learner.”

“Everyone’s a teacher. Everyone’s a learner.”

So what that means is that my kids take a lot of ownership and leadership in my school, in my classroom. Teach a lot of lessons, and they read a lot of different things in our classroom.

Vicki: Okay, so you have several different ways that students lead. Give us one of those ways.

Kayla: OK. Just for one example, we have student-led social media accounts in our classroom. My social media is all about teaching, and my students are on Instagram and Twitter as @topdogkids. So we have a Tweeter of the day every day, and we have an Instagrammer of the day every day.

Student-led social media accounts

The whole reason behind having these accounts is of course to share our story with the world, but more importantly to teach my students about how to appropriately behave on social media and how to use digital citizenship early on, before they actually have those accounts at home with their families.

So they’re in charge of sharing our story every day from our classroom — sharing highlights, sharing our work, sharing our story, with not only other teachers and other classrooms, but other teachers who follow along as well.

Vicki: So you pre-approve these? Tell us the age of your kids, kind of about how you go about the process when they say, “Ms. Delzer, I have something I want to share.”


Kayla: Really, if there’s something that they want to share, it has to fit all of our digital citizenship rules — which is actually a curriculum that I developed about four years ago.

There are seven different rules. So it has to follow all of those different things, and it has to highlight something that’s happening in our classroom. It has to be a celebration. It has to be important. It has to be necessary. It has to be kind.

So for example, sharing if a student improves on a test score, or sharing what we’re working on in math. Sometimes we’ll also just reach out to authors, or we’ll reach out to other classrooms and connect to them in that way as well.

Vicki: You teach. You’re an elementary teacher right?

Kayla: Yes, Ma’am! I teach third grade.

Vicki: Awesome, so we just want all of our listeners to understand that these are younger kids. Have you ever had a problem?


Kayla: We have not had a problem yet. Every once in a while you might have somebody follow the account who we don’t know, or who doesn’t look like somebody that we would not want to be following our account, so we might block them and have that discussion about when to block and how to block.

But it has been really an important learning process for my students, and for their parents, and for me, and I feel really great about them being equipped, when they go out and have these accounts by themselves, that they’ll make the right choices on social media.

They’ll know how to do it in a positive and uplifting way, instead just teaching kids how to NOT use social media or what not to do, or trying to scare them into not using it.

Vicki: OK. So Kayla, student-led social media. That’s going to scare some people. But you also have student ownership of scores. Explain that to us.

Student ownership of scores

Kayla: Yes, I do. We have a celebration close today.

We finished our assessment last week, and then this week was all about STAR testing. And I’m not sure what kind of assessment you have in the south, but we have STAR tests, some people had NWEA.

But what I do is at the beginning of the year I set a growth goal with all of my students, and of course we test again in December. And then we test again, today we tested.

So for the math scores my kids knew what their goal was. Many of them had reached them in January, so we had to reassess and reset a goal. But when they finish this test what happens is they hand in their paper to me, we look at it together right then and there.

Then what my students actually do is they call their mom and they call their dad and they report their scores to their moms and dads. So they talk about where they came in, and where they ought to, and how much growth they had.

Most of the time, I’m crying on the phone because I’m so proud! Lots of times the parents are crying too in joy as well. Because it’s just so cool for kids to really take ownership of that, and it becomes not just a test that they have to take, it becomes really a piece of evidence that they are ready to move on to fourth grade.

I feel that when you do that and kids really take ownership, their scores are actually much higher. For example, lots of my kids, scored at fourth grade or fifth grade. Some of them even topped out the test today, and it said above sixth grade, which was really awesome.

Vicki: So when you make these calls, I guess you’re doing it privately, so the other kids don’t hear their scores?


Kayla: Exactly. And so we do it when other kids are maybe a specials, or maybe going to recess or lunch or something like that. Of course, keeping the information private is important.

Vicki: Yeah. OK. Now, you also do student-led parent-teacher conferences, and we’ll show in the show notes to some folks who have talked about this. Tell us about those.

Student-led parent-teacher conferences

Kayla: OK. In our classroom, instead of just having parent-teacher conferences, we actually have student-led parent-teacher conferences. I think this is an important shift that needs to be made, especially in elementary classrooms.

So what happens instead of me just reporting data and reporting goals, my students actually sit on the other side of the table in the teacher chair, and I sit with the parents on the other side of the table.

My students basically go through a portfolio of goals that they have, dreams that they have, things they want to work on or improve — both personally and academically. They share that with their parents. They also share their early data, so they share their early scores that they had in different tests. We share our math tests with them as well.

It’s just generally a good time for all of us to get on the same page, to all hear the same language and all hear the same information.

I think about me even growing up as a student. I knew I was a good student, and I grew up with both of my parents being teachers, so I just kind of knew I was never going to get away with anything in school.

I might as well follow all of their rules, which I still do, and I definitely feel whenever my mom and dad went to parent-teacher conferences, even though I don’t think I did anything wrong, in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Oh my gosh. What is my teacher going to say about me? That is so bad. What did I do wrong?”

I was always so nervous for them to come home, and of course my teachers weren’t saying bad things about me. It was that sort of unknown that gave me the anxiety.

So I really just love having everybody sit around the table and just really show that student that “Hey we’re all on your team, and we’re all here to work together to support you to reach your goals this year.” And that way everybody hears the same information. Everybody leaves the conference feeling amazing. The parents are so proud, the students come dressed up to lead the conference, and they feel amazing, so it’s just really a win-win for everybody.

Vicki: What happens when you have hard issues? When you have a student who has behavior issues, or is really struggling, or might have a learning disability and you need to talk about it with the parents — how do you handle those specific issues?

Kayla: So we still talk about them with kids there too. Especially if it’s a student with learning disabilities, the IEP is there, and we talk about it with the special education teacher as well. And they go through everything together. It just gets us all on the same page.

And I definitely have kids who have behavior issues going on in the classroom. And we talk about, “Are we seeing those things at home too?” Sometimes it’s a yes, and sometimes it’s no. And it gets us all on the same page. So if maybe that parent WAS having that behavior at home, they can say, “How are you NOT having that anymore? What’s working home so I can try that that at school?”

Or maybe they’re having the behavior at home, and I can say, “Oh, well we’re doing “zones of regulation in our classroom. So I can give you some posters for that at home, and you can try it at home. Again, even if it is a harder issue, I think it’s important to just have everybody on the same page, hearing about it, and talking about it — to just show that student support in every way that we can.

Vicki: Kayla, as we finish up, would you give a motivational talk to teachers about empowering students and letting them be leaders and teachers in the classroom?

Kayla: Sure.

So, Vicki, one thing that I say — and I preach and preach and preach — is everyone’s a teacher, everyone’s a learner. And then of course, the more power I give up in my classroom, really truly the more power that I feel I get back.

The more power I give up, the more I get back

And so being willing to turn over some of the teaching to your students — turn over the leadership roles, turn over your seating charts, or your social media, your parent-teacher conference — turning those over to your students is one of the best decisions you can make in your classroom.

Because really, truly, the more power you give up, the more you actually get back in your classroom.

Vicki: And I’ve really found that to be true as well, remarkable educators.

You know right now we’re doing the apps. We have project managers, assistant project managers, graphic designers. And I basically meet with the leaders of the teams. They’re organizing them! They’re in charge!

It’s just incredible what happens, and the growth that happens you do have students as leaders. If you don’t, why not? Now’s a great excuse to start!

And the other thing is — if you tried at the end of the school year, what do you have to lose? You’re not committing to it for the whole year, you’re kind of just trying an experiment. And see how it goes, “Hey kids, I want to try this out and see what I’m going to do in my classroom next year. Let’s see what we think of this.” And go ahead and try students as leaders in these ways.

And check out Top Dog Teaching and all Kayla’s work. She has lot of resources to help you get started. Thanks Kayla!


Kayla: Thank you so much!

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Kayla Delzer is a globally awarded 3rd grade teacher and technology champion in North Dakota. In fact, The New York Times named her “one of the tech-savviest teachers in the United States”.

She has ten years of teaching experience in second and third grade. Kayla holds her master’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of North Dakota. In September 2018, she will be receiving the University of North Dakota Sioux Award, the highest honor of achievement offered by her University.

Governor Doug Burgum has recognized Kayla for her contributions to education in North Dakota, and assigned her a chair on North Dakota’s Innovative Education Task Force.

She has been recognized as both an “ISTE Influencer” and “HarperCollins Publishing Influencer”. Additionally, in March 2018, she was named 1 of just 30 “All-Star Digital Innovators” in the United States by PBS.

Kayla frequently travels around the United States and other countries as a featured and keynote speaker. She has delivered well over 100 keynotes, one of note being at Twitter Headquarters. On July 23, 2015 she delivered her first TEDx Talk, Reimagining Classrooms: Students as Leaders and Teachers as Learners.

Her work with classroom redesign and flexible seating has become the standard worldwide, and she was recently selected as a recipient of the Global Hundred Award, designating her as one of the top 100 innovative educators in the world. She is currently writing a book about classroom learning spaces and flexible seating, titled FlexED: Flexible Seating for Flexible Learners, set to release during the summer of 2018. She is also a co-author of the best-selling book Education Write Now, published in December 2017.


Twitter: @topdogteaching

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post Kayla Delzer: 3 Ways to Promote Student Leadership in the Classroom appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

The predispositions of school leadership

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 14 May, 2018 - 18:57

Much of the discussion at the recent uLead conference was on how we lead schools in today’s world. As you can imagine, there was a smorgasbord of opinions that yielded interesting discussion and important insights. The benefit of attending such conferences is that it often provokes and stimulates your own thinking as was the case when we were asked to write down our top three attributes of a school leader.

As I’ve written before, I find these requests to develop a list of leadership traits somewhat problematic. The trait theory of leadership posits that leaders are born with inherent traits and qualities that make them ‘fit for purpose’ for leadership. These traits are somehow genetic – in your DNA from birth like integrity, intellect, morality, resilience, fairness, compassion etc.

Since trait theory was first articulated there has be nearly 140 years of attempts to capture, define and replicate leadership. Most seem to anchor this in a deconstructed approach to leadership whereby you examine the parts of the whole, privileging some over others and then construct a new whole.

We are more likely to find an answer to this by looking not at leadership but at leading. It is in what people do as a leader that we actually understand leading. Looking through a lens of leading, means that we gain deeper insight into leadership.

I think a more realistic way of understanding the complexity of leadership is to view it as a set of predispositions that overlap with each other. For example, someone may have a natural predisposition for collaboration but it’s in the totality that you see leading in action. In other words, all the elements even if not in equal measure end up making the whole.

 While my fellow participants were noting down there top three traits, I jotted down my five predispositions that good leaders demonstrate in no particular order.

    1. Curiosity – the capacity to continually ask the why questions, to go deeper  and not to accept things at face value
    2. Empathy – the ability to see and understand the world through your teachers, staff and students lens
    3. Collaboration – the recognition that problem-solving and creativity comes from a shared vision and language
    4. Adventurous – the courage to take on and shoulder bigger risks with the aim of improving the outcomes for those in your learning community
    5. Learning – the desire to continually cultivate environments of learning and transformation requiring honest feedback (from others), critical self-reflection and personal growth

As John Kotter said, leadership is about coping with change. For me, these predispositions are fluid enough to be able to respond to the context and demands of the times.

Categories: Planet

Does It Matter What Programming Languages We Teach in High School

I’m tempted to just leave this post blank and see what sort of comments it gets. But I am incapable of that. Sorry.

Assuming we are preparing high school students for university and other advanced education and not for jobs right out of high school, what difference does it make what languages we teach? After all, concepts are what really matters. It is hard to pick what languages our students will be expected to learn when they get to higher education.

Universities are using C++, Java, Python, Scheme, and who knows what else as their first programming language.Can we teach them all? Not hardly. Often we only have students for a semester or two. If we’re lucky three or four semesters. A few students in a few schools will have more. But still there is an awful lot we could and probably should be teaching them. Overloading the languages is not likely to be helpful.

There is some indication that the second programming language is the hardest to learn so maybe we try to teach two and not worry too much about which two. At least they will be well situated to learn what ever their university professors throw at them.

On the other hand some would argue that with limited time we should go all in on just one. One or two the question becomes which one or two? Does it matter as long as the basic concepts are taught?

Categories: Planet

Thriving Through Adversity

The Principal of Change George Couros - 13 May, 2018 - 23:14

One of my favorite blogs is “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” It is funny but always pushes my thinking and provides strategies for personal growth.  In the most recent post, “4 Secrets From Stoicism“, it shared some advice that kind of threw me for a loop:

Many of the greats embraced the concept of “Amor Fati.” To not only accept everything that life brings you, good or bad, but to love it. To embrace it. To revel in it. Every single bit of your life. Yes, even the truly horrible, awful, regrettable, don’t-ever-want-to-think-about-it-again moments.

To which I initially responded with a big honking:  Huh? Seriously?

Easier said than done, right?

I encourage you to read the whole post, but here is an excellent little summary:

Here’s how Amor Fati can make you happy:

  • Amor Fati: Merely “accepting” life is not enough. You need the Platinum Pro package. Love every bit of life, good, bad, and ugly. (Yes, that includes traffic.)
  • Denial And Complaining Are The Enemy: Whatever it is, you will accept it eventually. So sooner is better. And whining is wasted energy. The universe doesn’t check its Complaint Box.
  • Flash Forward To The Future: Will this still bother you in a month? A year? Then don’t let it bother you now.
  • Treat Life As A Game: It’s no fun if it’s easy. If your personal story has no conflict, please do me a favor: don’t tell me your story. It’s boring. Do you want a boring life?
  • Feel Gratitude. For The Good And The Bad: You don’t know what, in the end, will be good or bad. So be grateful for it all. And then work to make the short term bad turn into long term good.

This line; “And then work to make the short-term bad turn into long-term good.”

Negatives last as long as you don’t learn from them. From every situation, good and bad, there are things that we can learn from, but if we let the negative linger, it will loom over you.

I always think about why people love superhero movies.  The most significant reason is not that they thrive, but because they succeed through dealing with adversity.

Negatives will happen. Embracing it as part of life is not only part of the challenge, it is an integral part of the journey, and in the end, can make you better. Ultimately, that is up to ourselves.

Turn your wounds into wisdom. -Oprah Winfrey

Categories: Planet

The Diaries of Henry Osborne (Part 2)

Darcy Moore's Blog - 12 May, 2018 - 18:08

Reading Henry’s diaries is taking longer than expected.

Tumbling down the research rabbit hole every few pages is a time-consuming pleasure. Is that book Henry mentioned available readily online? How well did British officials understand Bengali and other local languages? Who were these linguists serving the civil service? What is a GomashtahHow did the British rule and run their empire and what other primary sources do we have? What was the perspective of the colonisedWhose who? What historical fictional is worth reading? What is that medication? What vaccinations were available in India in 1877? Where is Henry marching exactly? Where exactly is Bengal Province? What were the boundaries of British rule? When? How is that place-name spelt now? Maps are rabbit holes. Google Maps and historical ones are an even deeper warren to plunge down.

Henry refers to the challenges of “the famine“. Terrible, horrible rabbit hole. Our diarist mentions he is reading Daniel Oliver’s “First Book of Indian Botany”. Rabbit hole. Henry receives mining and investment prospectuses as well as a “Certificate of Chemistry” in the mail (which is amazingly reliable and fast between Great Britain and the sub-continent). He is pleased the document is signed by his professor. A little investigation. Yes, he graduated from the Royal School of Mines and Science Training Schools in South Kensington. Rabbit hole. His instructor is WG Valentin who published a popular textbook, A Course of Qualitative Chemical Analysis (1874). 

Significant sources

The most extensive and useful labyrinth found came from investigating Henry’s frequent reference to “Carnac” or “the agent”. The Registers of Employees of the East India Company and the India Office reveal that this is Henry’s boss, the most senior official in the Opium Department, JH Rivett-Carnac (1838-1923), the Opium Agent for Benares. He contributed evidence to the First Report of the Royal Commission on Opium in 1894 and is now my best primary source for understanding contextually the information in Henry’s diaries. His obituary provides useful insight into both the man and official:

In accordance with the family tradition of the Rivetts he spent most of his life in India, where he had a very distinguished career, in both civil and military capacities. In addition to his public life in the Indian Civil Service, he had many private hobbies of a more purely intellectual nature, in any of which he would have obtained eminence had it held his somewhat over-versatile attention for longer than a few years at a time.

Carnac wrote about his life and times and well as his intellectual hobbies. Who’d guess that this would include (a rabbit hole the size of) archaeology? He published a very unexpected book you can read online, Prehistoric Remains in Central India. His memoirs, Many Memories Of Life in India, at Home, and Abroad, published in 1910, provides many invaluable insights into the work and lives of men – like Henry and Orwell’s father, Richard Blair –  as they progress through the ranks of the Opium Department. Carnac acknowledges “the overworked district officials” and the following, lengthy quote, provides context for many of Henry’s diary entries:

“To most of my readers the name of the Indian Opium Department will convey no information. It seems necessary then to explain that the Indian Government draw from opium a revenue of about four millions sterling. As to the merits of this source of revenue it is not my intention to enlarge. A Commission was sent out to India in 1893 to examine the whole question, and in their report will be found all the information that the most exacting inquirer can demand. The chief sources of supply were, and still are, the Behar districts of Bengal, and the southern and eastern districts of the North-Western, now termed the United Provinces. Under the Act pertaining to the subject, no one could grow the poppy plant without a licence from Government. And all the produce of the plant so grown had to be delivered over to the Government officials in the poppy-growing districts at a fixed rate. The opium so collected was then despatched to the Government factories, where it was packed and thence sent down to Calcutta. These chests of opium were there sold by auction, and the difference between the price thus obtained and the cost of the drug, and of the establishment of the Opium Department, represented the opium revenue.

The establishments necessary for the working of the Department were presided over by two so-called Agents, the one of whom had his headquarters at Patna, where was a factory, the other at Ghazipore, where the second factory was situated. The operations of the first of these Agents were confined to the Behar districts. Those of mine, called the Benares Agency, extended over the portion of the NorthWestern Provinces above mentioned. Each Agent had under him a considerable European and Native staff, generally a European officer, with sometimes a European assistant, in each of the districts where opium was cultivated. This officer had to select the lands on which the plant was to be grown, and issue to each cultivator a licence in approved form. To the headquarters of this officer was brought the drug when collected, and by him it was weighed and payment made according to certain rules which it is unnecessary here to detail. It was then sent down by rail or boat to Ghazipore. The opium when received at the factory was not ” manufactured ” in the true acceptation of the word, inasmuch as it went to China in the state received from the districts—that is, without any addition or manipulation. The processes at the factory were confined to seeing that the drug was of a uniform ” consistence ” as regards the moisture therein contained, and to making it into balls, like large cannon-shot, of which the covering was formed by the flowerpetals of the plant. For the duties of granting licences, inspecting and measuring the lands, seeing that none without licence were sown, for receiving, weighing, paying, &c, and for despatching the drug to the factory, the European officer had a considerable Native staff, and some two or three Gomashtahs, of about the rank of Native officers, a contingent of Native clerks, and a large number of men employed in the districts to supervise cultivation, prevent illicit cultivation, smuggling, &c. These in the whole Agency numbered several hundreds. In the Benares Agency the European district staff was, in my time, about sixty strong. This was supplemented during the busy time of the weighing of the drug by an additional twenty or so young fellows, taken on temporarily, and from whom were chosen later assistants to fill permanent vacancies. At Ghazipore, besides an office staff of secretaries and clerks, the Agent had a superintendent of the factory, a medical man, generally a Surgeon-Major in the army, and a dozen or so employed at the works, two of officer’s rank, the remainder chosen from retired army sergeants, and so forth. It will be seen, then, that the Agent had a considerable staff to control, and that what with this and the many other questions connected with a large Department and a great revenue, his hands could be pretty full.”

Henry and “Carnac”

There is a growing sense of unease at work for Henry and mention of “Carnac” grows more frequent and negative. Last post I mentioned our diarist was sleeping with a “derringer” under the bed as there were intruders in the house. His application for a transfer to a more favourable station is not approved by “the agent”. In 1878, Henry also has the challenge of a newly born son, who is sick with bronchitis, on top of the usual worries with his own physical and mental health. He reads a “confidential file” which gives him “a greater insight into Mr Carnac’s character than ever and not favourably”. A few days later it appears that Henry must meet with Carnac to answer “a charge bought against me” to do with “arrears of pay”. It doesn’t go that well:

“…met with the agent with whom I did not have an altogether pleasant interview…”

It will take Henry another seven years before he is promoted to the next rung on the sub-deputy opium agent ladder. There is probably nothing to that other than the glacial nature of promotion in this branch of civil service but it is interesting to read about his travails with the boss. Orwell’s father is often mentioned, in biographies of his literary son, as having very slow career progression. It is worth noting that Carnac says in his memoirs:

“Promotion was slow, and prospects were not good. Still a man could rise eventually to a salary of £1200 a-year, with a pension on retirement of £500 a-year. A young man so started was provided for, in a way, for life, and there were many who could not resist the temptation of thus disposing of a son, and relieving themselves of the expense and anxiety of further education. So there was a considerable demand on my miserable patronage, and having fortunately no poor relations to provide for, I did my best, whilst trying to secure a good class of youth for the work, to assist deserving old officers who were known to have large families and proportionate difficulties to struggle with.”

One notices that there is an “M Rivett Carnac” listed as serving the Opium Department in 1878 who is at the same “assistant sub-deputy” rank as Richard Blair, Orwell’s father. Carnac had no children so one assumes this must be a relative he was assisting by his patronage.

More rabbit holes

“All I knew was that I was stuck between my hatred of the empire I served and my rage against the evil-spirited little beasts who tried to make my job impossible. With one part of my mind I thought of the British Raj as an unbreakable tyranny, as something clamped down, in saecula saeculorum, upon the will of prostrate peoples; with another part I thought that the greatest joy in the world would be to drive a bayonet into a Buddhist priest’s guts. Feelings like these are the normal by-products of imperialism; ask any Anglo-Indian official, if you can catch him off duty.”

                                                           Shooting and Elephant, Orwell

There’s much to learn about the operations of late-19th century imperialism in India. The economics of the state-controlled opium monopoly in Bengal is of fundamental importance to understanding the period. Originally my interest in George Orwell led me to plunge down the rabbit hole of reading twenty-six diaries by this sub-deputy opium agent.  Orwell hated imperialism, especially after his experiences in Burma and I am confident that Henry – an “Anglo-Indian official” – will teach me more than a little about the experiences of Orwell’s father.

Pursuing “Carnac” has proven very worthwhile in developing a bibliography of other interesting primary and secondary sources to read about the British Empire’s opium trade. I am currently down the Deming, Owen, Tomlinson, Riddick and Rowntree rabbit holes but needing to head up to the surface for more of Henry’s life with his wife and newly born son, Henry Percy, as they literally traverse the Province of Bengal.

References UK, Registers of Employees of the East India Company and the India Office, 1746-1939/University of London; London, England; India List Civil and Military India; Reference Number: b2168330~S10 1890 pt 1

Bayly, C. A., Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire, The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010

Deming, Sarah, The Economic Importance of Indian Opium and Trade with China on Britain’s economy, 1843–1890, Whitman College, Economics Working papers 25, Spring 2011

GBO. Great Britain. Royal Commission on Opium. (Rivett-Carnac).1894. “Note on the Supply of Opium” (Presented by Mr. J. H. Rivett-Carnac, C.I.E.I.) Appendix V. Part 1. 319-335. First Report of the Royal Commission on Opium; with Minutes of Evidence and Appendices. Volume I. (C-7313). London: Printed for Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. By Eyre and Spottiswoode

Marshall, P. J., Bengal: The British Bridgehead: Eastern India 1740-1828, The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006

Osborne, Henry, Diaries of Henry Osborne, Sub-Deputy Opium Agent for the Opium Department, India Office, of the British Government in Bengal Province, India, 1877-78, Lett’s Diaries Company, Ltd

Owen, David Edward, British Opium Policy in China and India, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1934

Riddick, John F., Glimpses of India : An Annotated Bibliography of Published Personal Writings by Englishmen, 1583-1947Greenwood Press, 1989

Riddick, John F., Who Was Who in British India, Greenwood Press, 1998

Rivett-Carnac, John Henry, Many Memories Of Life in India, at Home, and Abroad, Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1910 (pp 304)

Rivett-Carnac, John Henry, Prehistoric Remains in Central India, Calcutta, 1879 (Reprinted from the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal)

Rowntree, Joshua, “The Opium Habit In The East: A Study Of The Evidence Given To The Royal Commission On Opium 1893-4”. China, Culture and Society, 1895

Tomlinson, B. R., The Economy of Modern India, The New Cambridge History of India, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2013

The post The Diaries of Henry Osborne (Part 2) appeared first on Darcy Moore's Blog.

Categories: Planet

Academically rigorous is incomplete without computer science

Mark Guzdial linked to this post on his blog - Feeling disadvantaged in CS courses at University of XXX – Original post at Minimal exposure

Interesting line from the original post: "Although my high school was academically rigorous, we didn’t have any computer science courses."

Maybe we need to decide that calling a high school “academically rigorous” is incompatible with saying there are no computer science courses?

Categories: Planet

James O’Hagan: 5 Reasons to Bring ESports to your School

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 11 May, 2018 - 21:54

James O'Hagan on episode 310 of the 10-Minute Teacher Podcast

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Esports are coming to state high school athletic competitions, college sports, and intramurals now. Today, esports pioneer James O’Hagan explains the phenomenon and how Gamer-Scholars are emerging as successful examples of a new sport.

SMART’s Give Greatness contest is today’s sponsor. SMART wants to recognize educators across the globe who inspire greatness in their students, peers or community. Nominate your favorite educator at

Each nominee and nominator will be entered to win a classroom technology package. The winning nominator and his or her nominee each win a $20,000 package including one 7000 series SMART Board and SMART Document Camera, 30 Chromebooks, and SMART training and implementation. Enter a great teacher today.

Listen Now


Enhanced Transcript James O’Hagan: 5 Reasons to Bring ESports to your School

Link to show:
Date: May 11, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with my friend, James O’Hagan, about five reasons to bring esports to your school. He’s an educator in Wisconsin.

Recently, James, you and your esports program have been in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and you’ve even had a kid who’s gotten a scholarship for esports.

Now, a lot of our listeners may not know what esports are. So explain. What are esports?

What are esports?

James: Sure, Vicki. Very simply, esports is the practice of competitive video game play.

So, there’s the idea of, you know, people play games and play video games. And what we’re doing is actually formalizing that into actual competition where teams are formed and kids play video games against other kids, usually at other schools, or even across the world.

Vicki: Well, we know that, you know, isolation can be a problem for some kids.

Traditionally, in the stereotypical video gaming, so this is really moving past that.

Today we are going to talk about five reasons to consider esports for your school.

So, does one of your reasons have to do with socialization, and could you give it to us?

James: So, one of the big, big reasons why you would want to do it, if we’re going to talk about socialization, is that esports actually helps to promote physical and mental health.

Esports actually helps to promote physical and mental health

So a lot of kids who would identify as gamers — and this what I have heard from parents and teachers too they worry about — is they tend to go into their rooms when they get home, lock the doors, and then not connect with anybody except for those in their virtual gaming worlds.

And what we’re doing is actually saying, “Let’s take the interests of the child, and let’s repackage that in a way where we can say, ‘Let’s play a game all together’ so that there’s socialization there. They are actually going to form a team, they’re actually going to form relationships with other people in the physical sense, as well as the virtual sense.

And then we’re going to say too, “Hey, in order to be a really good gamer, you can’t just sit there and eat Cheetos and drink Red Bull all afternoon. We have to incorporate some kind of weight training, some kind of yoga breathing, and some kind of aerobic activity to best prepare your brain for these games.”

Vicki: So you actually have a team that does well at your school, right? What are some of the esports that they play?


James: So esports, think of that as the big umbrella term. So when we think of sports, you go under that umbrella and you’ll think baseball, basketball, football, for example.

Under esports, the game names are a little different. So you’ll have a game called League of Legends, which is one of the most popular esports games in the world.

You’ll have a game like Rocket League, which is another popular game across the world. It’s two teams of rocket cars hitting a soccer ball back and forth.

There’s a game called Hearthstone, which is very much kind of like Pokémon, so using electronic cards and strategy in those sense.

So those are some of the more popular games that people play in schools.

Vicki: Awesome. Okay, so what’s our second reason for considering esports in our school?

James: Sure, esports also allows us to redefine our athletic culture.

Esports also allows us to redefine our athletic culture

So recently the big high school, National Federation of State High School Associations

which is like an organization for the athletic departments across the United States, said, “Hey, it’s time for us to start recognizing esports as something you need to incorporate at a statewide level into your high school athletic programs and recognize this as athletics.”

And what this is doing is, again, drawing in students who we would never draw in before, necessarily into athletics or activities, even.

Statistically speaking, there is about fifteen million students in the United States, three million of those students don’t actively participate in anything in their schools.

So what we’re going to say then, is let’s give them another opportunity, another reason, to get engaged in school.

When we redefine the athletic culture in that sense, and say, “Yes, let’s bring in gamers,” now those are the kids who, sometimes, like you said, would not identify with school activities or school culture and now they’re going to be more likely to attend all their classes, and have a GPA of 3.0, and be better readers and better mathematicians.

So, redefining our athletic culture, now you’re creating what’s called a scholar-gamer. And I prefer that term, really, over a esports athlete, that’s a term I used to use. But when you think about a scholar-gamer, it’s now somebody who’s not just playing a game because the game is just the medium into something more.

The game now becomes a pathway for students to, again, connect socially, but also begin to connect into the other things that are necessary to run a quality esports program, such as…

We want to be able to have our students broadcast the matches to the world on a platform such as Twitch, which is a video streaming platform owned by Amazon, but is a popular gaming platform.

We want them also to connect by creating the shirts, the jerseys, that they wear while playing their sports. It also allows them to really diversify their opportunities beyond just playing the game. I’m a terrible gamer, Vicki–

Vicki: (laughs) Me too!


James: I’m the person you DON’T want on the team. But I’m the guy who will say, and go to bat for these kids and say, “This is important, and it’s not just about the games.” So we’re redefining that athletic culture in our schools. That’s the second of our five.

Vicki: Yeah, and in some ways it’s almost a third, because I love this concept of a scholar-gamer and understanding that this is, this is just so much more. Okay, I’m excited to get our third.

James: Yeah, so kind of building off of what we just said, so yeah, diversifying opportunities for student participation.

Esports diversifies opportunities for student participation

It’s not, again, the games are just the medium to get them into other things. So by diversifying our student opportunities for participation, you’re again knocking down that barrier that may keep a child from wanting to be part of a team or sport or activity in their school, and hopefully then that connects them into the school in ways that raises our overall academic standing.

Vicki: That’s incredible. What’s our fourth?

James: So the other big one, and this kind of goes too, about creating a diverse opportunity, is increasing collegiate scholarship pathways.

Esports increases collegiate scholarship pathways

Three years ago, Vicki, when we did this podcast before when we talked about esports, there was one school in the United States that started offering a scholarship and that was Robert Morris University in Chicago.

And, in fact, one of our students here in Racine, Wisconsin from Racine Unified School District just earned a $6,000 a year scholarship to play esports — to play League of Legends — at Robert Morris University right down the road from us.

And that connection came from a tournament that the school participated in, down in Chicago. Conversations were had, and the child was then pursued to be an esports athlete with this team. If we didn’t have that team, that opportunity wouldn’t have existed for any of our students.

So nowadays, Vicki, you’re going to be surprised to hear this, we’ve gone in three years from having one school that offers a scholarship to 69 schools as of today offering scholarships for students. On an average, scholarship amounts of $7,000 a year.

In fact, the University of California-Berkeley just announced the other day that they’re setting up an intramural program for esports at Berkeley. There’s going to be possible scholarship opportunities for $1,500. Just for intramurals, for kids, too.

So there’s a ton of opportunity and what these schools have figured out is these are students that they may not attract in the past.

So Robert Morris University is not a very big school in the State of Illinois and in Chicago. There are a lot of opportunities and choices there. They really needed something to diversify and bring in these students that they weren’t getting before.

Because these kids are going to be AP- and IP-focused, going to have higher GPAs, going to have interest in STEM-related fields. That’s what the data shows us.

So this collegiate scholarship pathway is very important — not just for the students –but it’s also important for colleges to embrace. And they really have.

Vicki: So you’re telling me the data says if you want to attract more people in the STEM fields, that esports is a highway to pump them into your university or your school?

James: Correct, and, in fact, I don’t want to downplay the importance of these scholarships because, you know, $6,000 a year, for some people they will say, “Well, that doesn’t sound like a whole lot of money. It’s not a full ride.”

And that’s true, it’s not, but it’s something that can sway a decision. The University of California at Irvine, their scholarship is $15,000 a year.

Vicki: Wow. What’s our fifth? These are some powerful reasons, here.

James: Vicki, one of the things that I am a big proponent of, and this comes from my days of being an elementary school teacher, I think it’s more important at the high school.

Playing games is so important as a part of school, even in high school

This is playing games. This is so important. We have become schools that are so focused on the academic needs of our kids to raise test scores and try to prepare them for college and career-ready, and they’re just comes a point where we have to let them not forget the importance of play.

And this is taking play, that kids are loving to do already, they’re already engaging it, and saying, “Let’s make play part of school again, especially at the high school level.”

Vicki: Wow, you’re blowing my mind. You did when we talked three years ago, but it really seems like esports are really taking off, aren’t they?

James: Yeah, and the great thing about all this really is, Vicki, is that a lot of schools can get started today.

We’ve already made the investments in a lot of ways, with internet access to our schools. We already have the computers that we need.

And a game like League of Legends, which is completely free for anybody to download across the world, is five on five live action chess and is something that is very easy to get started with. It’s the most popular esports game in the United States.

And I will say, though, that if you focus on just the game and just starting, you just say “I want to have esports just so my kids can play games,” you’re missing out on a much bigger opportunity if you don’t realize it already.

Vicki: It sounds like it, and let me just ask out of curiosity, is this attracting men and women equally, or what kind of mix are we seeing with diversity?

We need to address the inherent issues of diversity in esports

James: Unfortunately, Vicki, there have been some glaring problems with the diversity and that’s something that I’m starting to focus on personally.

So what there has been, there has been recent research that was done that showed most of the people who are coming into esports games are white males or Asian males.

Because the market is so PC-driven not console — when I say console, I mean like an Xbox or a PlayStation — those tend to lean towards Latino or African American kids versus PC games which are more towards Asian and white kids.

And so there’s definitely some racial divides that we need to address when we’re talking about our esports teams, and we can’t ignore that.

We also should definitely not ignore our women in this field as well, too, because these teams, as we set them up, are meant to be gender-neutral. So I have seen some very good female gamers just as I’ve seen some very good African American and Latino gamers.

But I don’t feel we’re really doing enough to draw them in because this is an industry that by the year 2020 that is going to grow to be a $1.5 billion industry across the world. And as I said, the gaming is really nice, but what is important, is all other things become possible through this.

I have a contact, a friend that works at Twitch, and a lot of these kids who are getting jobs at places like Riot Games, Blizzard Games, all the ancillary businesses, they’re getting their start by playing these games but making these connections at colleges and universities and businesses through tournaments — and then getting picked up out of high school or even college these jobs at these game companies.

And as I said, as this industry is growing, we’ve got to have open doors for everybody to get into it.

Vicki: And I love the concept that you said, I’ll say it again, the “scholar-gamer.”

It’s more than just gaming.

This is an approach for reaching those interested in STEM, for helping people to get connected, for socialization, for even good health.

I mean, there are just so many reasons to consider. I mean, we live in the modern world, and yes, we want people to get out there and play sports! I do too, but there are lots of us who have different skill sets than others.

So I think this is fascinating. Do take a look at the Shownotes and follow James O’Hagan. He’s really been a pioneer in esports for quite some time, and it’s really taking off.

James, I’m excited for you to start getting the notice like you have in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and to really be addressing some of these issues as esports tends to grow.

I do think that it’s just in its infancy, and it’s really going to do so much in the next three to five years.

James: Yeah, and if people do want more information, I’ve started my own podcast, not to compete with yours, Vicki, but…

Vicki: Of course not! Don’t even mention it. We’re a podcast family!

James: Sure, yes, so your listeners can look up Apple Podcasts, or on Soundcloud, The Academy of esports podcast, and they could go to my website, it’s They can get the podcast there too.

Vicki: Cool! And we will put it that in the Shownotes. Thank you, James!

James: Alright, thank you Vicki.

Contact us about the show:

Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford

Bio as submitted

Esports allows schools to redefine their athletic culture, diversify opportunities for student participation, promote physical and mental health, and increase collegiate scholarship pathways.

And play games!

We cannot forget the importance of play!

James supports these ideals. It is his vision for all students to experience the fun and joy of playing competitive video games.

James currently is a doctoral candidate at Northern Illinois University in the field of Instructional Technology, the Director of Digital & Virtual Learning for the Racine Unified School District, the Board President for the Racine Public Library, and founder of The Academy of Esports.


Twitter: @jimohagan

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

The post James O’Hagan: 5 Reasons to Bring ESports to your School appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

EdTechTeam. One word, No spaces, Three caps.

Chris Betcher - 11 May, 2018 - 11:38

As many of you know, my current role is working with EdTechTeam in Australia and New Zealand. It’s a role I enjoy and I know we make a difference to many teachers both here in ANZ and globally.

As a team of educators working in the field of educational technology, I have always thought the name “EdTechTeam” is a good one.  It seems clear and unambiguous and I feel like it describes who we are and what we do.

So one thing that has always puzzled me is the way people consistently get our company name wrong. We commonly get called just “Edtech”, “Ed Tech”, and even “Edutech”, which is something entirely different. We sometimes get “EdTech team” or “Ed tech team”, both of which are close, but no cigar.

Say it with me. EdTechTeam.

I have lost track of the number of times I have received emails referring to us as Edtech, or been introduced as Chris from Edtech, and while I try to politely correct the error, I truly am astounded at the general lack of attention to detail it shows.

So please folks, it’s EdTechTeam.  One word. No spaces. Three caps.


Categories: Planet

Don’t add. Make better.

The Principal of Change George Couros - 11 May, 2018 - 07:58

Having just received an email from someone starting a new “technology” position in their school, they asked me what advice I would give.  I shared the following advice:

My only suggestion for you is to start from the curriculum and work backwards from there, not try to force technology into the curriculum.  If teachers can see a new and better way to teach, they are way more open to it. If technology is forced without them seeing the value, it will be a struggle. Obviously, relationships are crucial to this position as well, so just always focus on starting with teacher strengths, not deficits.

Relationships in every position in education are non-negotiable.  Build them, and you can do anything. Don’t build them, and you will struggle to do everything.

But I am struggling with the idea of “tech” positions lately.  The focus is often “how do I get technology into the classroom” as opposed to starting with, “How do I make learning better and deeper for those I serve?”  Too often, we look at all of the flashy tools and try to figure out how to implement them, making technology an addition to learning, as opposed to starting with the curriculum and showing the value to improve opportunities.  Technology use is rarely mandated in any document. Deep learning though should be everywhere.

If you start with the curriculum and move backward from there, a teacher is more likely to see the value in how it connects with the work that they are supposed to do.  This is why I have focused on innovation (new and better ways) in learning.

Instead of asking, “How do I fit this technology into the curriculum?”, start with, “What are you working on coming up in your class that you would like to try to improve?”  This makes a connection directly to the work, not trying to add something for the sake of justifying your job.

It is imperative that we understand we cannot add more time or stuff to a teacher’s plate.  What is necessary is to think about how we make the best use of the time we already have.

Deeper will always be better than surface level learning, and I don’t know one educator who would fight that notion.

Don’t add. Make better.

Categories: Planet

The SMART Give Greatness Contest: Nominate an Educator and Win

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 11 May, 2018 - 06:28

Win $40,000 in Classroom Equipment including Chromebooks

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

SMART believes that every student is capable of greatness. Often, educators are the inspiration for that greatness. The Give Greatness contest is designed to recognize educators across the world who inspire greatness in their students, their peers, and their community.

SMART is hosting a global educator recognition contest to Celebrate the greatness of our educators. Any educator can nominate his or her colleague for this honor.

Tell everyone you know to nominate an educator who inspires greatness. This contest is truly a win-win.

My Give Greatness Nominee


I’ve talked before about Mrs. Adkins.

At 90 years old, she still works at my school every day, teaching kids and directing our Learning Lab at Westwood. She has a legacy of more than 50 years of teaching and helping kids who are challenged to reach their fullest potential.


Not only did Mrs. Adkins help me work on my SAT score when I was in high school, but in second grade, she taught me to love art when she was my teacher. She’s spent a lifetime helping children and is one of the greatest educators I’ve ever known.  I have two children with learning differences, and she’s helped them to be successful as well. Hundreds of children who grew up to become doctors, lawyers, and teachers (like me) praise Mrs. Adkins for what she has inspired.

What can you win? (Besides just encouraging the person you nominated.)

With each nomination, both the nominator and the nominee are entered to win a classroom technology package valued at up to $40,000. Nominator and nominee each win one 7000 series SMART Board, one SMART Document Camera, 30 Chromebooks, SMART training and implementation support, and more.

Who is Your Give Greatness Nominee?

Now it’s your turn. Who is your Give Greatness nominee? And as long as you’re nominating this educator, why not tell everyone about what makes him or her great?

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored blog post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies that I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The post The SMART Give Greatness Contest: Nominate an Educator and Win appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet
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